Chris needed a below-the-knee amputation because of his diabetes. He didn’t realise how important it was to take his diagnosis seriously. Chris wants other people to know the importance of good diabetes management and accessing the checks they’re entitled to.
Living with Type 2 diabetes since 1999
“I want to get the message across to people with diabetes that if you have anything going on with your feet, get medical advice. Don’t think it will go away, as you can literally lose your leg.”
My doctor ran some tests as I had been feeling absolutely dreadful, but I put this down to the pressures of my stressful job. I remember being on my way to Norway when I got the phone call to say I had Type 2 diabetes. I wasn’t really that fazed by it, as I didn’t know too much about the implications.
There was a really good nurse at my GP practice who was dedicated to looking after people with diabetes. I remember the message coming through from her about looking after my feet, and I should’ve taken heed of the advice that was being given to me. But for some reason, I just didn’t take it on board.
I was put on metformin and carried on as normal. I didn’t make any changes to my lifestyle, as I didn’t really feel that I needed to. My test results were showing that my diabetes was under control, so as far as I was concerned I had no reason to worry.
Developing foot complications
In 2013 I went on holiday to Tenerife with my family, where I wore a new pair of sandals. They rubbed my feet and caused a blister on my big toe, but I didn’t really think anything of it. However, this became ulcerated and infected.
I was treated by a podiatry team back in the UK but the infection had spread to the bone and I needed to have the toe amputated. Given the state of the toes generally, the surgeons then suggested a forefoot amputation. I was initially shocked but they were optimistic that in six months they could get me back into normal shoes. I thought this sounded like a reasonable prospect and agreed to the surgery.
I thought that would be the end of it but sadly my foot wouldn’t heal. I needed to have it dressed three times a week, which was incredibly tedious, but I didn’t want to lose the limb. The infection continued to spread and eventually I was admitted to hospital for IV antibiotics.
I remember the surgeon asking me how I saw things and I explained that I had a holiday to Madeira booked for the following week and a cruise the following month. I told him I would face the music when I got home. The surgeon looked at me across the table and said he wanted to do a below-the-knee amputation the following day. He explained the infection was dangerous and could spread above the knee and this would then be an entirely different level of disability. I didn’t really have much time to think about it all, which might’ve been a good thing. The following day I had the amputation.
Life after amputation
The surgeon advised me that my leg would be healed in two to three weeks, which it was. Admittedly the wheelchair wasn’t much fun, but within a few months I was in a prosthetic and walking again. Things were undoubtedly tough but nowadays I try not to let it stop me doing the things I want to do. I’m still active and love to go sailing.
I’ve been fortunate to have good doctors and an incredibly supportive partner, which really helps. My general health is now good, although I am tablet controlled. I am also much more careful with my other foot, as I know all too well how important it is to check your feet.
Diabetes is a nasty condition and I wish I had known just how serious the complications can be. I want to get the message across to people with diabetes that if you have absolutely anything going on around your feet then get in there and get medical advice. Don’t mess around with it and don’t think it will go away, because you can literally lose your leg.
Nobody would ever want to lose a limb but I hope that by raising awareness I can help other people realise just how important it is to understand diabetes and its complications, and to access the checks and support they need.
Be in the know about diabetes and your risk of foot complications.